NICOSIA, Cyprus — The football association in Cyprus postponed all first division matches this weekend after a bombing damaged the car of a top referee in the country.
An explosive device was placed on the hood of referee Leontios Trattos’ car in a parking lot outside his apartment in a Nicosia suburb, police said. No one was injured in the pre-dawn blast, but his car and another vehicle were damaged.
The bombing comes ahead of a friendly between the United States and Ukraine March 5 that was moved from Kharkiv because of violence in Ukraine. It wasn’t immediately clear why Trattos may have been targeted, but the Cypriot league is tightly contested this season and passions are running high among supporters.
Football in Cyprus is dogged by hooliganism, and referees, including Trattos, are often the target of abuse by overzealous fans. Unruly fans allegedly attacked Trattos after a local friendly last summer.
Trattos is the President of Cyprus’ Referees’ Association and he has overseen World Cup qualifiers, and Champions League and Europa League matches.
Instantly recognizable with his shaved head, the 41-year-old Trattos is considered to be among Cyprus’ best referees and is often called upon to handle some of the toughest domestic league matches.
The Cyprus Referees’ Association said in a statement that previous appeals for authorities to protect their members from “cowardly masked bandits” have gone unheeded.
Both the football association and the country’s top sports body condemned the bombing as a “terrorist attack.” The players’ association said it stands in full solidarity with Trattos and all other referees.